“In many ways, the North won the Civil War militarily and then lost the peace. You know, a group of writers, included many Confederate generals, began a school of thought called the Lost Cause in which they began to romanticize the Confederacy.”
~ Ron Chernow, Pulitzer prize winning historian
I love living in Fayette County and have resided in Georgia for most of my life. My three children and eight grandchildren are all Southerners whose ancestors fought for the South.
Many aspects of Southern culture should be celebrated. For example, I believe that Southerners (black or white) are the friendliest, warmest people in the nation.
However, the glorification of the South’s role in the Civil War (still known to a few white Southerners as the “War between the States” or the “War of Yankee Aggression”) is not one of those positive attributes. There are over 1,000 streets in the South named for Confederate icons, including in Fayette County. Objectively, there should not be any.
Last year, the Atlanta City Council took the long overdue step of renaming three Confederate streets in the City limits. The vote, a first step, was unanimous based upon the recommendation of a citizen committee appointed to study the issue. Per NPR, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms issued a statement indicating: “The imagery and symbolism of these names and monuments represent systematic injustice, persecution and cruelty. That is not who we are as a city.” She is 100 percent correct.
In the near future, Atlanta streets named for Robert E. Lee, Howell Cobb, Stephen Dill, and Nathan Bedford Forrest will also be renamed. Regarding Forrest, it should be noted that he was a founder of the KKK.
It is now time for other cities and counties around Georgia to do the same. A first step would be for each county and city to establish a citizen committee to review their current street names.
I can hear the white nationalist objections coming hard and fast: “We’re proud of the South”; “It’s our heritage”; “You can’t forget history.” No, you cannot forget the past, but it must be remembered accurately. And, Confederate leaders attempting to destroy the United States of America in the name of perpetuating slavery is clearly not a part of Southern heritage of which we would should be proud.
There are no public streets in Germany named for Nazi leaders. There are none in Italy named for Mussolini. We should not name streets for traitors to the USA, responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead in an immoral secessionist war that should never have been started by the leaders of Southern states, including the generals and politicians for whom many roads are named throughout the South.
Further, these streets are a constant reminder to our African-American citizens (about a fourth of our county) that white Southerners are at least indirectly proud of the institution of slavery, the true cause of the Civil War as clearly stated in many of the official secessionist documents issued by Southern legislatures. After 150 years, isn’t it finally time to try to bring our people together rather than continuing to drive us into warring “tribes?”
A valid argument can be made that Confederate Monuments are art and should not be simply destroyed, but rather moved to museums and off the courthouse steps. I agree and believe Stone Mountain can be converted into a museum for this purpose.
The same cannot be said for these street signs which can just be easily eliminated. It is past time to take this step, if for no other reason than for the white power structure (which continues to dominate our state) to reassure our black neighbors that we truly understand why the Civil War was fought and that this historic American disaster is not something we as Georgians wish to continue to celebrate.